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David Davis: EU risks misjudging UK over no-deal Brexit

The former Brexit secretary said the EU had ‘lots to lose too’ if there was not a deal.

The European Union will be making a “massive miscalculation” if it thinks the UK is not ready to walk away from Brexit talks without a deal, David Davis said.

The ex-Brexit secretary’s comments followed Liam Fox’s assessment that the probability of a no-deal outcome was “60-40”.

Mr Davis – who spent months negotiating with Michel Barnier before quitting over Theresa May’s Chequers plan – insisted that EU member states had more to lose from a failure to reach an agreement than the UK.

He told the Daily Telegraph: “This has great scope for being a massive miscalculation on the part of the EU that could end up with no deal by accident.

“It’s certainly not the intention of the EU to have a no-deal Brexit but they are misjudging us at the moment. The UK Parliament does not want no deal but it’s certainly not going to be pushed around by the European Parliament.

“I’ve always thought that no deal is better than a bad deal and while there will be border issues and so on… it would give us more freedom.

“I’m still of the view that we have got two things on our side – we have got our own currency and we are masters of our own destiny in a way that EU member countries are not.

“This is a negotiation and it will go to the edge, but we must not panic about this.

“They have got lots to lose too, and specific countries and specific sectors have got large amounts to lose. As we get closer to the brink, there will be internal pressure within the EU.”

The Prime Minister met French president Emmanuel Macron for face-to-face talks at his summer retreat on Friday and ministers have been dispatched across the continent to deal directly with their counterparts in what has been seen as an attempt to cut out Mr Barnier and the European Commission’s bureaucrats.

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International Trade Secretary Liam Fox said the EU was ‘pushing us towards no deal (John Stilwell/PA)

Solicitor General Robert Buckland indicated that the Government believes the leaders of the 27 EU states will come to play a more significant role as the deadline for a deal approaches in the autumn.

“The Government’s policy is to get a deal and that chimes entirely with what I think is in the best interests of our country,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Westminster Hour.

“The reality is that as we get close to the wire, the views of the member states will become more important.”

The UK and EU hope to reach a deal by October, in order to give MPs and MEPs chance to scrutinise it.

But Mr Buckland said that if that date slipped to November, there would still be time – although he hinted the Commons’ Christmas break could be cut short.

“The clock is ticking, parliamentary time will be very tight,” he said.

“I don’t think that needs to be emergency legislation, I think it can be done on the floor of both Houses, but we are going to have to perhaps look at a few recesses and actually the time that we use in Parliament in order to make sure that everything is thoroughly debated.”

Government sources have suggested that the EU’s own Lisbon Treaty could legally require Brussels to work towards a deal, the Telegraph reported.

Article 8 of the treaty states that the EU must “develop a special relationship with neighbouring countries, aiming to establish an area of prosperity and good neighbourliness, founded on the values of the Union and characterised by close and peaceful relations based on cooperation”.

Mr Davis said: “The Lisbon Treaty requires them to come up with a workable arrangement and that’s certainly not the description of their behaviour at the moment.”

Labour warned that a no-deal scenario would be a “catastrophic failure of government” in response to Dr Fox’s assessment.

The International Trade Secretary used a Sunday Times interview to blame the “intransigence” of the European Union for the current impasse in Brexit talks.

But shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer said Prime Minister Theresa May’s “reckless red lines” had contributed to the difficulties, along with splits in the Tory ranks and “fantasy Brexiteer promises”.

He indicated that Parliament should prevent the UK crashing out without a deal.

Pro-EU Tories also suggester Parliament could step in to ensure the UK remains in the single market if no other deal is available.

Former Cabinet minister Nicky Morgan said keeping the UK in the single market as part of the European Economic Area (EEA) or European Free Trade Association (EFTA) was “clearly (the) right option”, adding “will PM move that way or does Parliament have to force issue?”

Former minister George Freeman said that after the “failure of the 2016-18 Brexit Cabinet to plan, prepare for and negotiate a sensible, smooth and pro-business bespoke Brexit”, more Tories were coming round to the view that an EEA/EFTA solution was necessary.

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